Product Review - Dungeon Deck: Quests

Dungeon Deck: Quests is a deck of cards produced by Gamers Rule that is designed to create a short, random dungeon, suitable for a single evening of play. The creators suggest using it when you want to play but haven’t had a chance to properly plan, for whatever reason. It is not intended to be a full replacement for adventure design, but something to enable play on short notice.

The deck itself consists of seven smaller decks, each of eight cards. The idea is that you draw one card from each of the piles, and that will give you enough to go on. The decks provide a hook, the dungeon’s entrance, the atmosphere within the dungeon, the type of dungeon, a map, the types of encounters within, and a reward. There are a lot of possible combinations for simple dungeons possible here.

According to the product’s website, the original design was done for 2nd edition (AD&D) but has been updated for 4th Edition.

What’s it like?

The cards are fairly high quality. The images on the cards are photographs, and don’t feel especially poorly chosen—I didn’t notice any major anachronisms that would feel out of place in a D&D game. The idea is sound, and a sample run gave me a dungeon I could easily have run on little notice. If you’re at all a tactile individual, the cards will feel like a great method of random adventure design. They may not be the deepest adventures, but they’re exactly what they’re advertised as being—a quick sub-in adventure for a single evening.

Unfortunately, while eight options for, say, dungeon atmosphere or entrance may be more than sufficient, it feels a bit thin on threats or treasures. The threats are generalized—humans, for example, or goblinoids—with no specific encounter breakdown. While this is simple enough to cover for by using the sample encounter groups out of the Monster Manuals, it’s fairly limiting and doesn’t really make use of a significant portion of the creatures that have been offered.

Furthermore, the deck doesn’t really scale very well at all. One of the threat cards, for example, suggests using goblin encounters. A quick scan of the available goblins, bugbears, hobgoblins, and orcs from all sources to date shows very few outside of heroic tier, and none in epic. Another problem area lies in the rewards. The designers could easily have applied the treasure package system, with reward cards like “One treasure package of appropriate level”, “Magic Item Level +2” or even magic items of their own design, applicable across all level ranges. Instead, there are suggestions of rolling for the amount of money or gems, or a level 11 consumable magic item—which, given that the adventures themselves may well end up restricted to heroic tier threats, is a bit problematic.

Another problem is that no matter how many different combinations of the dungeon map and atmosphere you pull, with only eight options for threats, if you make heavy use of the Dungeon Deck, you will almost invariably run up against the adventures feeling “samey”.

Final thoughts

For all the problems, the idea behind Dungeon Deck: Quests is solid and I could see paying $5-10 for a version of the product with some of the bugs worked out. Unfortunately the asking price is around $20, which seems a bit steep for what you get. For the DM that has everything and is willing to put a bit of work into expanding on the base Gamers Rule provides, it might be worthwhile, but all in all it feels like a good idea that would have benefited from wider playtesting and development.

Comments (3)

Saragon (October 9th, 2009)

$20 is definitely far too much to pay for a random dungeon generator.

Tyson J. Hayes (October 9th, 2009)

I agree with @saragon way to much of an asking price. $10 for me would be fine if the cards were higher quality. Really though it doesn’t sound like it’s worth it at all.

A 4e DM (October 21st, 2009)

I have this card set.

I disagree with the reviewer in that I think the photographs on the cards are cheesy.

The idea is sound for a pick-up game. As stated previously, it would be a much better sell at $5-10. And better art.

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